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Rosa    by Jonathan Rabb order for
by Jonathan Rabb
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In the last days of WWI, socialist revolution sweeps across Germany. Of more concern to Detective Inspector Nickolai Hoffner and his young assistant Hans Fichte are the deaths of four women from the slums of Berlin, all with identical markings incised on their backs.

Jonathan Rabb's Rosa deals with a period of time with which I was not familiar. The machinations of the communists and the socialists of that era were hard to follow at times, but I did understand that a leader of the suppressed socialist uprising is also found dead. Her body mysteriously disappears from the morgue. Hoffner and Fichte struggle to stop the killings, to find Rosa (the socialist whose corpse is missing), and to understand why the Polpo would want to be involved in the murders.

The novel is tightly written with a knowledge of post-war Germany that makes the readers feel they are walking down the streets of a war-ravaged city. Action packed pages race toward a climax that was confusing to me but nonetheless intriguing. The private lives of Hoffner and Fichte intermingle with alarming results. Hoffner is a tough policeman who, as most people do, regrets a past action. These feelings color his future reactions. There is much spying and lurking in the wings going on. I have to admit I kept leafing back over pages to keep in touch with who was who, and who was doing what.

Rosa, Rabb's third novel, has a deeply involved script that never slides off course, and tight writing with great characterizations. I look forward to Rabb's fourth.

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